Derby spirit alive despite no chance of finals appearances
Former West Coast and Fremantle player Scott Watters believes the 57th Western Derby will be as intense as any in the past despite neither club being in the mix for the finals.
Both WA sides have endured poor 2023 seasons, with the Dockers sitting 15th after finishing 5th and winning a final last year and the Eagles rooted to the bottom of the ladder with a 2-18 record to go with a historically poor percentage.
Watters, who featured in 43 games across four seasons for West Coast and was an inaugural Fremantle player, told Sports Breakfast he expected a red-hot contest on Saturday night’s clash at Optus Stadium.
“When I think about derbies, I grew up as a South Fremantle player, and playing in a Fremantle derby was something very special. That tradition has certainly moved forward onto West Coast and Fremantle,” Watters said.
“It doesn’t matter where they are on the ladder. You’ve got a two-team town, they share the media, they share appearances, and they’re fighting for relevance.
“Both teams have had disappointing years and for either this week it would be nice to finish off with a Derby win.”
The former Fremantle vice-captain said the two clubs disliked each other from day one.
“[The Eagles] were coming off a premiership in ‘94, they were absolutely in their prime, and it was very early days for Fremantle, many of those players were playing in their first handful of AFL games,” he said.
“There is and always will be a genuine hatred and passion to beat the other side in the town. Coaches will play it down every time but that is 100 percent real and we’ll see it again this weekend.
“It bubbled over into the Demolition Derby and since then the ledger’s been relatively even. Ever since then, the ledger’s been relatively even, and I think we’ll see another pretty even game this week.”
Watters, whose coaching resume includes winning a WAFL premiership with Subiaco and 2008 and two years in charge of St Kilda in the AFL, said the Dockers were capable of a quick bounce-back next season but the Eagles would need more drafts to put together a competitive playing list.
“The West Coast Eagles, there’s a number of factors that have brought them to this point. List management, the fitness levels of their players and injury rehab on top of that. They haven’t been healthy, they haven’t recruited particularly well,” he said.
“Fremantle, to me, are a little different. Their talent profile is certainly closer to being in finals contention and they should be. The really big question for me is around their inconsistency … they’ve underachieved this year.”
“Justin Longmuir should be supported, but I certainly think their assistant coaching panel should have a sharper edge to it … I don’t see that in some of their coaches, I see a lot of development coaches.”
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